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Friday, May 4, 2012

The Mystery of Safeco Field

The Twins have not realized much success
in Seattle lately
 There are some teams that, for no reason in particular, the Twins seem to struggle against on the road. No, I'm not talking about the Yankees or the Rangers here; I can list some solid explanations for the Twins' lackluster performances against those teams. I'm talking specifically about the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners, usually bringing up the rear of the AL West, seem to turn it on when they play the Twins at Safeco. Here's a recent history of the Twins-Mariners season series: Last season, the Twins were 3-5 in their season series against Seattle (1-1 at Safeco). Our good team from 2010 managed a 6-4 record (3-4 at Safeco), our 2009 team went 5-5 (1-2 at Safeco), and the 2008 Twins went 5-4 against the Mariners (2-4 at Safeco). You have to go back all the way to 2007, when that year's Twins team went 6-3 against Seattle, and had a 5-1 record at Safeco, in order to find the last time that we posted a winning season series at Safeco. If you add it up, the Twins are 7-11 at Safeco in that 2008-2012 period, against a team that is usually among the worst in baseball. Just for reference, here is Seattle's winning percentage each year from 2007-2012: .543; .377; .525; .377; .414; .407.

It's curious. Yes, Seattle has had some great pitchers over the last few seasons, like Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda, who are always formidable opponents. So it's never going to be an "easy" road series when you draw King Felix. And yes, Safeco is known as a pitchers' park -- but so is Target Field, where our 2010 team went 3-0 against the Mariners. I wonder what it is about Safeco that's bogging down the Twins? On paper, Safeco would seem to be a match for most Twins teams: good for our "pitching to contact" philosophy and large gaps for our speedy hitters -- much like Target Field. But for whatever reason, it hasn't translated into success.

Most years, I stay up to watch the Seattle games, and am left at the end of the series feeling like the Twins missed an opportunity to gain some ground. Just generalizing -- they really seem to scuffle at the plate in Seattle. Whatever it is that has prevented the Twins from realizing much success at Safeco these past few seasons, hopefully the fact that we have several new players this season, like Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit, will bring about a change in the way the Twins play the annual Seattle series.

Or, perhaps I should just hope that we get at least one base hit tonight.

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